Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 23 Pearl Harbor Attack

Chapter 23. Records of the Joint Committees of Congress 1789-1968 (Record Group 128)

Table of Contents

Records of the Joint Committees of Congress 1789-1989 (Record Group 128) from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack (1945-46)

JC.088 At dawn on December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers staged a surprise attack on U. S. military and naval forces in Hawaii. In a disastrous and humiliating defeat, the United States suffered 3,435 casualties and loss of or severe damage to 188 planes, 8 battleships, 3 light cruisers, and 4 miscellaneous vessels. Japanese losses were less than 100 personnel, 29 planes, and 5 midget submarines.

JC.089 After the defeat of Japan almost 4 years later, Congress established the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack to "make a full and complete investigation of the facts relating to the events and circumstances leading up to or following the attack." (S. Con. Res. 27, 79th Cong.) In its investigation, the committee sought to determine whether shortcomings or failures on the U.S. side might have contributed to the disaster and, if so, to suggest changes that might protect the country from another such tragedy in the future. The committee's public hearings commenced on November 15, 1945, and continued to May 31, 1946. Testimony was received from 43 witnesses and ran to 15,000 typewritten pages.

JC.090 The records of the committee include records relating to the seven previous governmental investigations of the Pearl Harbor attack. These were the Roberts Commission undertaken by Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts in 1941 at President Roosevelt's request; the investigation conducted by Admiral Thomas C. Hart in 1944 at the behest of the Secretary of the Navy; the 1944 Army Pearl Harbor Board; the 1944 Navy Court of Inquiry; the 1944-45 investigation by Col. Carter W. Clarke for Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall; Maj. Henry C. Clausen's 1944-45 investigation for the Secretary of War; and Admiral H. Kent Hewitt's 1945 study for the Navy Secretary. In all, these investigations produced 9,754 pages of testimony from 318 witnesses. The joint committee published the proceedings of all seven as exhibits.

Photograph of the burning USS <em>West Virginia</em> in Pearl Harbor, 12/07/1941
Photograph of the burning USS West Virginia in Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 (SEN14A-B6) from NARA's National Archives Catalog.  
JC.091 Among the records are galleys of the proceedings and reports, as well as other records, of the seven inquiries. There are transcripts and exhibits relating to the joint committee hearings, and a copy of the committee report (S. Doc. 244, 79th Cong. 2d sess., Serial 11033). The documents include correspondence with the public and with current and former governmental agencies and officials, memorandums of the committee counsel, copies of correspondence and memorandums of executive departments (much of it formerly classified), copies of intercepted Japanese messages, replies to interrogatories, photographs, notes, and excerpts from newspapers dated November 20 to December 7, 1941. There are explanatory memorandums prepared by the retiring counsel for the new counsel and also receipts regarding documents borrowed, returned, and distributed. The records include various documents regarding the committee's plans, rules of procedure, and activities, as well as the committee's briefing book.

JC.092 There is a finding aid to the records of this committee.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1989.

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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42) by Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989), and Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-245) by Charles E. Schamel, Mary Rephlo, Rodney Ross, David Kepley, Robert W. Coren, and James Gregory Bradsher (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989).